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AUGUST 12 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Nurses use equality laws to defend pro-life views
BY SIMON CALDWELL
A HOSPITAL has backed down from trying to force a pair of Catholic nurses to participate in abortions after their lawyer invoked equality laws against the NHS.
The case represents the first time that the Equality Act 2010 has been successfully used to defend a prolife position as a “philosophical belief” protected by law.
The nurses, both Filipinos who do not wish to be identified, objected when they were placed on duty at a weekly abortion clinic at a busy central London hospital.
They were asked to look after women admitted to the hospital to take two courses of pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – to induce miscarriages in the first trimester of pregnancy.
They complained to their hospital chaplain who referred them to the Thomas More Legal Centre, which specialises in religious discrimination law.
The hospital was informed in a letter from the centre director Neil Addison that Section Four of the 1967 Abortion Act gave the nurses a right to conscientious objection to involvement in the procedure.
But Mr Addison also stated that their belief in the sanctity of life from conception onwards was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act.
He told the hospital that any attempt to pressure them into participating in the abortion clinic or to suggest that their refusal would affect their career would be illegal under the Equality Act.
The hospital did not contest his argument and proposed that other duties would be found for the nurses at the abortion clinic other than the administration of the abortion pills. When the hospital was told by Mr Addison that this would still render the nurses “morally complicit” in the provision of abortion it capitulated completely and allocated the pair to duties elsewhere.
“This particular use of the Equality Act has never to my knowledge been argued before,” Mr Addison said.
“However, since the courts have accepted that belief in global warming is protected under the Equality Act I saw no reason why a pro-life belief should not be equally protected.”
Mr Addison said that the Equality Act offered the nurses additional protections to those upheld by the Abortion Act, principally by explicitly prohibiting the punishment of a conscientious objector.
He said: “I considered that if the Equality Act argument was accepted then it would provide the nurses with additional protection by protecting them from harassment, victimisation or discrimination because of their pro-life stand.”
He added: “The use of the Equality Act is, I believe, very significant for doctors and nurses who are increasingly being pressured to participate in abortion, in particular these new forms of abortions induced through pills. Now they are not only protected under Section Four of the Abortion Act but they are also protected from harassment, victimisation or discrimination because of their pro-life stand.
“It is important to understand that the Equality Act does not require that the belief in the sanctity of life is religiously based – even a humanist or atheist who believes that human life begins at conception will be protected by this new interpretation of the law.
“The Thomas More Legal Centre would be pleased to hear from any doctors or nurses who are finding that they are being pressured to participate in abortion and who want to have legal support in their refusal to have anything more to do with it.”
Recourse by Christians to the Equality Act represents an ironic reversal of the use of a law widely criticised because it has been often unfairly deployed by authorities as a weapon to harass, humiliate, suspend and dismiss them.
Other Christians are already planning to use the Equality Act to settle grievances against their former employers.
Among them is Margaret Forrester, a Catholic mental health worker from London who says she was “bullied out of a job” by the Central and North West London NHS Trust after she showed prolife literature to a receptionist booking women in for abortions.
Miss Forrester, who is also being represented by the Thomas More Legal Centre, has claimed, as part of her case against the Trust, that her belief in human life beginning at conception is protected by the Act and NHS lawyers have already conceded the point.
Ann Widdecombe says the BBC’s Muslim head of religious programming has improved the service PA
Ann Widdecombe praises new Muslim head of religion at BBC BY RORY FITZGERALD AND MARK GREAVES
THE BBC has become less antiCatholic under a Muslim head of religious programming, according to former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe.
Miss Widdecombe said that since Aquil Ahmed was appointed two years ago the BBC’s religious coverage had “improved vastly”.
Speaking to the Irish Catholic she said: “He isn’t a Christian but he understands faith, he understands religion. I’ve recently done a few programmes for the BBC, which I’ve been allowed to do absolutely straight – no agenda at all... not slanted or sarcastic or anything. I think it’s helpful we’ve got somebody there who understands what faith is about.”
But she said it was “undeniable” that the BBC had a Left-wing bias.
“Yes, it caters for Christians – and that is undeniable – it’s got its religious programming, it’s got Songs of Praise... but in commentary and debate it is weighted the other way,” she said.
Miss Widdecombe said that over the last decade or so Britain’s attitude towards Christianity had changed “from indifference to active marginalisation” – and that persecution was not too strong a word to describe the way Christians were being treated.
“When you’ve got an airline which can seriously say that a Muslim can wear a hijab, a Sikh can wear a friendship bangle or indeed a turban (in the case of men) but a Christian may not wear a cross, then you have got something that is very difficult to say is not persecution,” she said.
“These days [a doctor or nurse] can’t even say to a patient, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ There was a time when the response would have been ‘thank you’, because that is the polite response. Now, it’s to put in a complaint and get the worker sacked.”
Miss Widdecombe retired from politics last year and spent 10 weeks as a contestant in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. She turned down the chance to become Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See because she had to have emergency surgery to her eye.
In her interview Miss Widdecombe also praised the Catholic Voices initiative during the papal visit, and said the Church was “useless” at PR. During the abuse crisis, she said, the Church “never stood up for itself”.
“It didn’t point out that the biggest abuse actually happens within families; it happens in Scout groups, choirs, anywhere you care to look – the teaching profession – there is nothing unique about it to the Catholic Church,” she said.
She also spoke about her decision to convert to Catholicism, which came after much soul-searching, especially given her “deep roots in Anglicanism” – her brothers were both Anglican priests.
She said: “I had become very disillusioned, and went through a period of agnosticism. I saw both churches from afar.
“It seemed to me that the Anglican church was always blowing about with every wind of fashion whereas Roman Catholicism said, ‘well, something’s either true or its not, and it doesn’t matter if its popular or not’. And I thought ‘yes, thanks. That’s what I expect the Church to say.’
“The final straw for me was the debate about women priests which wasn’t about ‘is this theologically right?’ it was all about ‘well, if we don’t do this we won’t appeal to the modern world’.”
Miss Widdecombe, who was rumoured to have refused the position of Health Secretary under John Major because it would mean presiding over thousands of abortions, said that abortion was not just a religious issue and that “some of my best work against abortion was done when I was an agnostic”.
“It is a moral issue – if I come up and kill you, you do not say it’s a moral, individual issue. We are talking about taking life in the womb. Our laws now permit abortion up to birth itself. That means you can have two children in the womb, one of whom is protected and born with every civil liberty that there is and the other of whom is not wanted and can actually be aborted at the same age and gestation as the other child. That is profoundly wrong.”
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CPS drops case against priest who dug up body Popular London priest loses battle against cancer
BY DAVID V BARRETT
A COURT case against a Polish priest who dug up the body of a child has been dropped.
Fr Wojtek Jasinski of the Marian Fathers, who formerly owned Fawley Court in Henley, near London, had been charged under a law dating to 1857 with illegally removing the remains of Witold Orlowski from St Raphael’s Convent in Lower Bullingham, Herefordshire, some time between August 2008 and March 2010.
Fr Jasinski’s barrister, Andrew Davidson, described the case as being straight from a “Charles Dickens novel”.
He said: “It is a Burke and Hare offence from when people went out in the middle of the night to steal gold teeth. Fr Jasinski was acting for moral reasons which were entirely honourable.”
The case at Worcester Crown Court came to a halt last week when the Crown Prosecution Service accepted that it could not be proved that the bones were human and the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him.
Orlowski died in 1944 in Mexico after his family had fled Poland at the outbreak of the Second World War. His father and sister had already died of typhus along their route, which passed through present-day Ukraine and western Siberia, and Witold died of tetanus after being run over by an ox cart. The 14year-old boy had prayed that God would take his life and spare the life of Fr Jozef Jarzebowski, a well-loved Marian Father whom many Poles regarded as a saint, who was seriously ill. The priest recovered, and later travelled to England with Witold’s mother. There have been calls from some Polish Catholics for Witold to be canonised for his selfless prayer.
Zofia Orlowska brought her son’s remains into England in a metal box hidden in a suitcase, and they were buried at St Raphael’s Convent. She worked at Fawley Court in the 1960s, and died in 1995.
The box containing Witold’s remains was removed from an overgrown wall when the former convent was put on the market for development; he was reburied with his mother at Fair Mile cemetery in Henley-onThames.
The movement of his remains was brought to light when a relative who had travelled from Poland to visit his grave was unable to find it, and notified the police.
Fr Jasinski, who is now based in Rome, said: “Common sense tells me removing the remains was the right thing to do. It was his mother’s last wish. If I had not done it, I would have been wrong.”
BY DAVID V BARRETT
FR ALAN Fudge, “a hidden holy man in the centre of London”. in the words of a parishioner, has died. He had been parish priest at St Charles Borromeo, Ogle Street, London, for 33 years. Ordained in 1971, he celebrated his 40th anniversary as a priest last month.
Fr Fudge became ill five months ago with cancer on his lung. Treatment with chemotherapy had little effect, and he came off it on Wednesday last week, receiving palliative care to relieve the pain and treat symptoms of the disease. He died peacefully at his presbytery two days later, early in the morning on Friday “accompanied by the brothers and sisters of his community”, said a parish statement.
Parishioner Ed Rennie said: “He was a hidden holy man in the centre of London, with a saving grace effect on people’s lives. When you have been with a holy man you become accustomed to this, but when he passes on you realise that you didn’t recognise how special he was.
“I think most parish priests in London would say he was second to none as a homilist, breaking open the Word in the liturgy.
“He was a man of deep prayer and spirituality. He was a very good shepherd of the developing and growing
Neocatechumenate communities in his parish.”
Fr Fudge, 70, became seriously ill before Easter.
“That helped us to cope with the reality that we would lose him, though it is still devastating,” said Mr Rennie.
At his last Mass, 40 years to the day since his ordination, Fr Fudge was wearing a chemotherapy pump under his cassock, he said.
Meanwhile, Mgr Terence Stonehill, a priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, died peacefully at the Holy Cross Priory, Henfield, West Sussex, on July 31, aged 85.
Mgr Stonehill retired from his last parish, Corpus Christi, Henfield, in 2007, the same year he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination.
Among other positions he had served as provost of the chapter of Arundel Cathedral, episcopal vicar for religious, diocesan administrator of the secular clergy common fund, director of the Association of St Teresa and chaplain to the southern section of the Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
In his last years he continued to celebrate Mass daily in the chapel at Holy Cross Priory and to minister to the needs of his fellow patients.
The funeral Requiem Mass will be held at Arundel Cathedral at 3pm today with Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton presiding.
NEWSBULLETIN Sister Wendy Beckett comes ʻout of the closetʼ SISTER WENDY Beckett has announced that she has “come out the closet” and is finally writing openly as a Catholic.
The art historian and Carmelite nun said her two recently published books are her most explicitly Catholic works to date.
the books are important personally because they mark the point when she speaks unashamedly as a Catholic. “When I began writing many years ago, it was simply about art itself ... I never used religious language, not to put off the atheists and the non-Christians,” she said.
Sister Wendy, 81, has simultaneously published The Iconic Jesus and The Art of the Saints and says
“Now I can feel I can write about God in his own name.”
Church official kept child porn A CATHOLIC child protection officer has been found with over 4,000 images of child pornography.
Christopher Jarvis had been the safeguarding coordinator for the Diocese of Plymouth since 2002. He was responsible for advising and monitoring Church groups to protect children from paedophiles. He pleaded guilty to 12 counts of making, possessing and distributing indecent images, 10 of which were level five, the highest level. He was caught when he uploaded five images in spite of using an email address under a false name.
David Pond, chairman of the Plymouth Diocesan Safeguarding Commission, which covers child protection, said: “Mr Jarvis was suspended from his position as soon as the diocese became aware in March of the police investigation. The bishop took that action and since then the Church has worked closely with the police. He is no longer employed by the diocese.”
Electrician is suspended A CHRISTIAN electrician who won the right to display a palm cross in his work van has been suspended from his job.
Colin Atkinson won an agreement with his employer, Wakefield District Housing, in April, that meant he could return to work after he was threatened with the sack for refusing to remove the cross from his dashboard.
But he said he was since harassed and suspended.
NHS tests Reiki therapy THE NATIONAL Health Service is to spend over £200,000 researching a controversial alternative therapy which has been criticised by sceptics.
The project, funded by the National Lottery, is designed to identify the effectiveness of a Buddhist “healing” technique called Reiki by testing the method on 200 patients suffering from bowel disorders at NHS Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.
Apology: telephones down THE CATHOLIC HERALD would like to apologise to readers who have been unable to reach us due to a problem with our telephone lines. We hope to have them working again by the end of the week.
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